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Autophagy. 2007 Mar-Apr;3(2):130-2. Epub 2007 Apr 7.

Apoptosis and autophagy function cooperatively for the efficacious execution of programmed nurse cell death during Drosophila virilis oogenesis.

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Faculty of Biology, Department of Cell Biology and Biophysics, University of Athens, Panepistimiopolis, Athens, Greece.


Programmed cell death consists of two major types, apoptotic and autophagic, both of which are mainly defined by morphological criteria. Our findings indicate that both types of programmed cell death occur in the ovarian nurse cells during middle- and late-oogenesis of Drosophila virilis. During mid-oogenesis, the spontaneously degenerated egg chambers exhibit typical characteristics of apoptotic cell death. Their nurse cells contain condensed chromatin and fragmented DNA, whereas active caspase assays and immunostaining procedures demonstrate the presence of highly activated caspases. Distinct features of autophagic cell death are also observed during D. virilis mid-oogenesis, as shown by monodansylcadaverine staining and ultrastructural examination performed by transmission electron microscopy. Additionally, atretic egg chambers exhibit an accumulation of lysosomal proteases. At the late stages of D. virilis oogenesis, apoptosis and autophagy coexist, manifesting cell death features that are similar to the ones described above, being also escorted by the involvement of an altered cytochrome c conformational display. We propose that apoptosis and autophagy operate synergistically during D. virilis oogenesis for a more efficient elimination of the degenerated nurse cells.

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